In this passage we learn of the nature and attributes of God. Moses had requested (chapter 33) that God show him his glory, and while Moses cannot yet be allowed to see God face to face, the Lord reveals the essence of his nature by passing by and declaring his word to Moses.

We read in verse 6 the Lord saying, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” These are comforting words to the believer. God is emphasizing how gracious he is. Enjoying fellowship with God is the end for which Christ came to deliver us from our sins. You can see a direct line from this passage to the cross.

St. Bernard, an 11th century Christian leader was once asked how he maintained his faith in the face of such difficulties in this world. He responded that he kept 3 things close to his trust or heart. First, the love of God for making me his child; second, the truth of God in keeping his promise; and third, the power of God being able to make good all that he has promised.

St. Bernard knew that the great care of our soul is to find God, that he might comfort and sanctify us to enjoy his gracious fellowship. Thomas Manton wrote: “Enjoying fellowship with Christ is the goal of all our effort. To serve God is one thing, but to seek him is another. To serve God is to make him the object of worship, to seek God is to make him the end (goal) of worship.”

In this passage, the prominence is given not to what Moses saw, but rather what God said. He declares his name; “The Lord.” This is God’s “I am” name. It means he is self-existent. He is before all things, and the origin of all things. He is eternal, infinite, and immutable. God is not evolving or growing, he is not deficient in any way or in need of anything or anyone.  He is the Lord. 

This name is also his covenant name, attaching his name to his promises for his people. “Come unto me,” The Lord Jesus said, and “I will give you rest.” It is the Lord Jesus that brings the covenant of grace. The word for “merciful” in our text is used of a mother’s compassion or pity for her child. The Lord communicates to us this way, to urge and persuade us to trust him, and rest in him.

This is the solace for our souls; that God has made an everlasting covenant with is people, and sealed it with the blood of Jesus. In Christ, you are bound to God, and he is bound to you. This covenant is the firm foundation to build upon for life and death.  Jesus said, “He who believes in me, even though he dies, yet shall he live.”

The Lord also says he is “slow to anger”, or long suffering. The Lord is patient with us; he doesn’t have a short fuse. Every man that knows his soul (and the Lord) has reason to be humble and thankful over this declaration by the Lord. We have been repeat offenders and transgressors against our Lord’s glory, and yet he has been patient, leading us to repentance. 

In verse 7 he says, “Keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” The Lord uses three words to encompass all manner of depravity; iniquity, meaning twisted or perverse; transgression, which is willful rebellion, violating the clear mandates and commands of the Lord; and sin, which is falling short of the glory of God. 

Having laid out sin for what it is, the Lord says he is gracious and forgiving. There is no reason for any sinner, however perverse, not to come to him; for he is willing to forgive. Again, this statement from the Lord looks to the cross where Jesus paid the debt of all sin for his people. It is a wonderful thing to have your soul cleansed and united to Christ.

There is a warning from the Lord at the end of this declaration of grace and forgiveness; he will “by no means clear the guilty.” The Lord is full of grace, but to those who disobey his command to come to Christ for forgiveness of sins, they will give an account for their sins.  Every sin accrues guilt, and the Lord will execute his justice. He does not change. We must not presume on his mercy.

Therefore, let us make sure we are Christ’s. These words from the Lord emphatically say that where sin abounds grace abounds all the more. Nevertheless, we must truly embrace the Savior given.